14 August 2012

Restaurant Review: Gobo in New York City

Walt and I had our two year anniversary a week ago.  To celebrate, we decided to go to our favorite vegan restaurant, and then go to a movie.  This was the fourth time we'd been to Gobo and we already knew at least one of the items we were going to order.

On our first visit, two summers ago, we were very impressed with the decor and ambience.  The interior was airy and inviting and, with a long table down the center of the room, made me picture a future where we would have a huge group of friends joining us for dinner or where we would share the long table with many groups of strangers, who would surely become friends, after all we are all vegan -- right?

Since we had gone in on a Sunday afternoon, there were few people there and we weren't seated at the communal table, instead being placed at an intimate table at the far end of the room.  Intimacy in New York is a different animal, of course.  Our table was only a foot away from the next.  But we were undisturbed and, our waiter, Justin, was a delight, even chasing us down the block when I'd left my camera on the table.

We have been back several times, and our most recent visit was highly anticipated.  Sunday evening was not too crowded but we were a little disappointed that Justin wasn't working, since he'd been "our" server every time we'd eaten there.  We were seated close to the front, near two other tables of diners by a waiter who neglected to either give us his name nor greet us at all.  Instead, he gave us menus and rushed away.  Not at all our Justin.

We ordered our favorite - The New England Rolls with zesty tomato sauce - along with Scallion Pancakes with Homemade Mango Salsa for appetizers.  The New England Rolls are so delicious and meaty.  With a perfectly crispy exterior, they rival egg rolls in the way that the tofu is flavored to resemble pork.  The veggies rolled inside make you believe you've achieved nirvana and dinner hasn't even really started yet.

We are pretty adventurous with food, so we were trying out the scallion pancakes for the first time.  We now have a second 'must-have' dish.  The pancakes were crispy on the outside with a lush and flavorful interior, bursting with scallions.  The mango salsa was heavenly in its combination of mango, red onions and tomatillos.  Bright and acidic, it was the perfect counter to the olive oil crust on the pancakes, making the whole dish a delicious marriage of flavors.

For the entree, Walt ordered the Malaysian curry and I ordered seitan skewers with green mustard sauce.  The curry was rich and slightly sweet, but not overly so, filled with tofu and potatoes over brown rice.  The seitan skewers, unfortunately, were so awful I didn't eat them.  The plate arrived with two sauces, one which tasted of ranch dressing and the other so thin and bland it may as well have been water.  The seitan itself was rolled sliced to resemble sausage and on a skewer alternating with wedges of dry undercooked red onion.  The chef apparently believed I would like to taste huge chunks of carbon char stuck to the outside of the seitan.  Eating bits of blackened food that should have been cleaned from the grill is not something I enjoy and no amount of Walt's curry sauce could cover it, so I left the remainder on the table.

We ordered chocolate cake and key lime pie for dessert and were not disappointed.  The chocolate cake is always airy and light and layered with a creamy and rich chocolate ganache, dusted with green tea powder.  The key lime pie was so similar to the real thing that I couldn't eat more than a bite.  To Gobo's credit, if they are able to mimic the custardy texture of key lime pie to such a degree that someone who hates the texture of custard won't eat it, they've done a great job.  And the flavor was explosively limey and delicious.  Walt ate every bite while I demolished the chocolate cake.

Our entire dinner with tip was $75, which included cooling ice teas, although I can't say that our waiter, what's-his-name, deserved a $10 tip.  Unfortunately, he spent most of his time flirting with other servers and dancing to the incongruous Latin music being played, while ignoring his tables.

On the whole, Gobo is the best vegan restaurant I've been to, and one bad dish certainly isn't going to stop me from going back.  Nor one bad waiter.  We've tasted one of the best vegan lasagnes in the Western hemisphere here, as well as a to-die-for braised tofu in black bean sauce and veggie burgers.  If you're in NYC, stop in at Gobo for lunch or dinner, and don't skip the scallion pancakes or the chocolate cake.  Just make sure not to order the seitan skewers, and ask if Justin's working.

www.goborestaurant.com (And try to forgive them for their truly obnoxious website.)

Fianna MacGregor | Blog | Blog | Twitter | Email
New York City Fianna has been vegan for 36 years. She is currently working on a second M.A. in Human Rights from NYU. When she isn’t veganizing every cookbook she can get her hands on, she’s working her urban farm in New York City. She also writes extensively on veganism, running and green living. Her newest project is to trace everything she buys to find out if it’s cruelty-free (both animal and human) and eco-friendly. Fianna and her fiancĂ© are animal rescuers of dogs, cats and birds.

Photo credit: Fianna